Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Aloha Rolls

I have been making lots of different recipes for rolls lately. This one is one of my favorites so far and I wasn't the only one. The rolls were devoured pretty quickly, with songs of praise over the sweet, light and airy rolls. My daughter Sabrina bit into one and said she tasted pineapple before I even told her it was in it. Thanks to Love Foodies for posting this great roll recipe.

Aloha Rolls
1 (0.25-oz ) pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs
1/2 c. pineapple juice
1/4 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. butter, melted
4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt

In small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. 

In stand mixer, beat yeast mixture, eggs, pineapple juice, 1/4 cup water, sugar, vanilla, and melted butter. When combined, gradually stir in salt and flour until a stiff batter-like dough is formed. Knead for 10 minutes using dough hook until dough comes away from bowl in ball, adding a bit more flour if needed.

Cover with a clean cloth and place somewhere warm to let rise for 1 hour. 
Punch the air out of the dough and turn it onto a well floured surface. 
Divide into 2 equal pieces and then divide each of those two pieces into 8, for 16 rolls total. Use 2 9-inch baking pans, and grease and flour the pans. After dividing the dough, form into rolls and place in pan so the seam side is placed down in the pan.

Arrange the rolls like the photo, all around and one in the middle. Cover and let rise again until doubled and they are touching each other, about 40 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350º. Bake for 15- 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter. To test if the rolls are cooked through, Tip them out the pan (use a cloth!) and tap the base. Especially in the center. If it sounds hollow, they're done. If not, return to the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes.


Monday, March 2, 2015

19 years and 12 weeks‏

Alex's birthday is this week and it will be the first one he hasn't spent at home. We sent a little birthday package (shipping to Japan is crazy, gotta say) that had gifts and lots of candy and these funny kid's size nose and glasses. I told him in the letter that he had to take pics with them. I sent 4, one for each of the elders. I didn't really think he'd wear them for a photo, but he did. Yay! But I didn't get the photos from him. I only got one photo from him (the last photo in this post), but Elder P.'s mom posted these first two from her son.

Alex (in front) and his companion Elder O.
Elder P.
Some parts of his letter to me:

A new favorite food? I don't know if it is necessarily a favorite, but something that I've come to like is called an onigiri. It is a ball of rice with some kind of filling in the middle (usually fish), and wrapped in seaweed. It doesn't sound to appetizing, but I like 'em.

I have met with President Smith in an interview setting twice since getting to Japan: once for an arriving interview, and one for a regular "check up." I can call him if I need to, and I write to him every week about how I'm doing. I definitely think that I have somewhere to turn to if such an occasion arises. One of the first things President Smith said to me was something along the lines of "your father is thousands of miles away, so I will do everything I can to be your father for the next two years." I truly to feel like he loves every one of the missionaries as his own children, and he is an amazing man.

I wrote to some elders, including Alex's companion and he was nice enough to write me back. I appreciated hearing a bit about Alex from him: Elder Mendoza is a great companion and an even better missionary. Thank you for teaching him and helping him become the man that he is! I am learning more from him than he is from me!
Sendai South Zone Conference -- Alex is the last (right) on the back row
Here is his letter to everyone:
Am I really turning 19? I honestly don't feel like how I thought I would feel when I turned 19. I can't believe I've been on this earth for 19 years already, time goes by so quickly. I am reminded of how I always used to look up to the missionaries I saw when I was young and thought how it would be so cool to be their age and be so mature. Now I have started to think about how I am in their shoes now, and how their are people looking to me as an example, as a hero, and as someone they want to become like. It's weird to think about. I don't feel like I am something that kids would look up to, but from my experiences in the past, people notice you a lot more than they tell you most of the time.

In addition to this, I have been in Japan for about 12 weeks. That's about 3 months! I really don't feel like I've been here that long, and I sure don't feel like I have already been out on a mission for just under 5 months. Time sure flies by when you're in the service of your God.

This weeks Japanese word is: 宣教師  ( Senkyōshi ) It means Missionary, and the literal translation is something along the lines of "teacher of the message."

We now return to our regularly scheduled program:

Monday: We got our suits dry cleaned for the zone conference we were having on Thursday, and after email, went up to the north part of town to meet with Brother Gessell. We were going to have a role play with him, but when he found out that I hadn't been to a Japanese sushi place yet, he took us there. I had lots of fun, and it was an all you can eat place. I tried eel, and octopus sushi, as well as other sushi that I can't remember or didn't ever know what it is. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but I assure you that I loved it (despite the wasabi).

Tuesday: We went to visit a man named Iwai, and he was really nice. He met with LDS missionaries 40 years ago, and it was really cool to get to know him. He gave us coca-cola, and lots of treats as well. After that, we went to the church and had DCS followed by a lesson with Brother Hasebe (we have been asked to emphasize calling everyone by brother or sister or their title, so I will be doing that from now on). We were able to talk to him about his experience at church, and it was good.

After that and a quick finishing of our daily studies, we went over by the train station to follow up on some stake pamphlets we put in some people's mail boxes. We didn't have too much success per se, but we did get some interesting conversations. One of the most interesting ones was with a man who after hearing that what we were talking about was religious started to go off about his visits to Egypt and things like that. That activity took the rest of the night.

Wednesday: We practised in the morning for a special musical number Elder O. and Elder P. had for the zone conference. we then went and tried to visit a less active member, but he wasn't available, so we went back to the church for yet another lesson with Brother Hasebe. That took the rest of the time to English class, and that was interesting. We had kids class that day, and we played four corners the entire time. I ended up winning, and the one kid who came couldn't get enough of the game.

Thursday: Zone conference was amazing. We had to wake up at 4:30 to get to Yamagata city, but despite that, we had an amazingly spiritual meeting, and I learned so much from it. We also got a surprise gift from Elder Evans of the Seventy. He had given President Smith a copy of Meet the Mormons to show on special occasions, and President Smith decided that it was a special enough occasion. After that, we got a little seminar from one of the stake presidency on a new program that will be starting up to make it easier for members to refer their friends to missionaries. We then rode a train back to Yonezawa, and went to sleep.

Friday: This was as usual an uneventful day, because we had LOTS of planning to do. After we planned, we went to a members house to share a message. On the way we met a boy we might play basketball with soon. When we got to the members house, we were surprised to find they had made a dinner for us. They had karaage (fried chicken that is really delicious), and lots of other things, and it was really good! We then shared a message with them about holding to the iron rod mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and how we should help our friends find it as well. Since that was in the evening, we went home and finished the day.

Saturday: Saturday was full of planning for the party we had. After the planning we had a lesson with Sister Momozono and Sister Keiko (An old investigator we picked up, and her friend who is now more of an investigator than she is, respectively). We had met them a few times before, and we didn't know if they would keep the commitments we had extended to them. When I asked them if they had prayed on their own, Sister Keiko said that she had, and that she felt the peace and calmness we had talked about in our last visit with her. It was amazing, and I am so happy that she is coming closer to her Heavenly Father.

We then got the church ready for the party, and had the party. The beginning was slow, but it picked up as we played "ninja" and had a three legged race. It was a lot of fun, and the crown event was the gyoza (I think they're called dumplings in English) that were made by a chinese member here in Yonezawa. It was fun, and we got to talk to lots of people.

Sunday: We had a really good sacrament meeting, and one of the members who has recently been coming back to church bore her testimony during the testimony meeting. The same member also gave us all presents for our birthdays. I love her and her strong testimony; she is such an amazing person.

After church, and again after studies, we went to visit a family that we have tried to start teaching. They were all sick this week, so we weren't able to meet with them. Since it was pretty far away, it took us an hour to walk there, and we were able to get a ride back from a member who we went to go visit with. We finished the night off at the apartment with dinner and planning.

I truly hope that you all are doing well, and I pray for all of you often each day. I hope that you stay close to the Lord, especially during your trials and hard times.

Elder ____
Alex and his companion Elder O. -- Thanks to Alex for breaking his no selfie rule so I could get one pic!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Milk Chocolate Truffles

I started making these rich, soft truffles years ago. It's really easy and makes a lot. The number of candies depends on the size of your candy mold. This time I didn't have enough milk chocolate so I added in some dark chocolate along with the milk chocolate so it's a bit darker than if you use just milk chocolate.

Here are some step-by-step directions showing the way that I make filled candies. I start by choosing a candy mold to use.
I melt the molding chocolate (also called candy melts) in the microwave just until melted and stir until smooth. I drop a dollop of the chocolate into each candy mold.
You can use utensils for this next part, but I use my finger to smooth the chocolate on the bottom and up the sides of the mold, forming a layer to make the hollow shell. Refrigerate this for a few minutes.
Remove the mold from the refrigerator and fill almost to the top with filling, being sure to gently push down to avoid air spaces in the finished candy.
Finish my placing another dollop of melted molding chocolate on top of filling to close the candy and make the base.
Place in refrigerator or freezer until the bottom of the candies looks completely frosted. Then gently pop candies out of mold.

Clean molds with hot water. (Do not put candy molds in dishwasher.)

Milk Chocolate Truffles
1 c. heavy cream
1 lb. 5 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
1 t. vanilla
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted
Molding milk chocolate

Melt molding chocolate and pour into candy molds (on bottom and up sides) to make shells. Refrigerate to harden. Heat the cream to the boiling point. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Let cool to around 98º, then add butter and stir.

Wait until filling starts to thicken, then transfer to candy bottle or pastry bag and pipe filling into cooled candy shells. Leave small space above filling then pour melted molding chocolate on top to make base of candy. Chill until hardened. Pop out of mold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Grilled Steak Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

This salad recipe is from Bon Appetit, but it was a little too plain for me. I love salads that are loaded with goodies so every bite is different and you never know just what will be that next forkfull, bursting with flavor.

The tomato vinaigrette is genius! I took a short cut and just threw some cut up tomato into a mini-food processor, skin and all, and I didn't remove the seeds. Then I added all the other vinaigrette ingredients. I used parmesan ciabatta rolls and cut them up and grilled them for the croutons and they were delish. I gotta do that with other salads too.

I used red onion since I couldn't find scallions at the grocery store where I was shopping. I added dried cherries and roasted red peppers to the whole salad that weren't in the original recipe. I like the cherries, but next time I might use blackberries instead. Mmmm. Blackberries in my salad. Then just to mine I added feta and candied pecans since I love both of them. You can see how to caramelize nuts on this other really delicious salad recipe post.

Wow!!! Crunch, flavor, vitamins, freshness, protein, so many good things packed into one salad.

Grilled Steak Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
1 lb. hanger, skirt, or flank steak
1 t. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (about 6 oz.), halved
1 T. minced shallot
1 t. apple cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 c. plus 5 t. olive oil, divided
4 spring onions or 6 scallions, bulbs halved, dark-green parts discarded
5 (1/2-inch-thick) slices ciabatta
8 c. mixed summer lettuces (such as mizuna, baby mustard greens, and tatsoi)
3/4 c. fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch strips
1 c. roasted red pepper, chopped
1/2 c. dried cherries or fresh blackberries
1/2 c. candied pecans
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled 

Season steak with 1 tsp. salt and pepper; set aside. Grate cut sides of tomato on coarse holes of a box grater into a medium bowl down to the skin; discard skin. Add shallot and vinegar; whisk in 1/4 cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Tomato vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. 
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Toss spring onions in a medium bowl with 1 tsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill onions until just tender, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 2-inch pieces.
Grill steak until seared and cooked to desired doneness, 3–5 minutes per side for medium-rare, depending on steak's thickness. Transfer to a cutting board. Let rest, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make croutons: Brush both sides of bread slices with remaining 4 tsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill bread until dark golden brown and nicely charred in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Set toast aside until cool enough to handle, then break toast into roughly 1-inch pieces.
Thinly slice steak against the grain. Toss lettuces, basil, spring onions, croutons, roasted red peppers, cherries, pecans, feta, and some of the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add steak and toss gently to coat. Serve with remaining vinaigrette alongside.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Moving at the Speed of Light

I was really bummed that Alex didn't send any photos this week. He said that the week went by too quickly. So I used two of his photos from his pre-mission photo shoot.

In the letter to me he said that he didn't feel the bigger earthquake that was in Japan, but he felt a couple of smaller ones and the were "relaxing". Glad he thinks so. Here is his letter to everyone.

People often say that time is fixed. I'm here to tell you that it's not. I have experienced such an increase of time since coming on my mission. Weeks fly by, and yet each moment lasts a lifetime. This is probably one of the "how"s of missionary maturity growth rates. God is the source of all good, but it sure seems like He changes time for His missionaries.

This week's Kanji of the Week is: 求道者。 Kyudosha (cue-dough-sha). The literally translation of this word, is truth seeker. What it means in Church terms is "investigator."

And now for the weekly report:

Monday: Monday was nice as usual. We got to go back to the local Daiso, where I got a travel sized "go" board, and Elder O. got a watch, among a few other things. We then had a lesson with Mr. Hasebe. He is moving this week, so it was one of our last visits with him. We wanted to talk about faith, and really focus him even more on Christ; so that we did. It was a good lesson, and I hope it helped him come closer to Christ. 
My brain is a little fuzzy on that day right now, but after we got back from working at night, we discovered that Elder O. and Elder P. both got the same watch from Daiso. It was pretty funny to see their reactions when the found out.

Tuesday: We had another lesson with Mr. Hasebe, and in that lesson we focused on modern day prophets and watched one of the most recent talks by President Thomas S. Monson with him. We had a good time with him, and he seemed to like President Monson. After that we went back to the apartment and finished up the rest of the studies we had left because of the morning's DCS meeting. We then took a bus to the train station, and went up to a neighboring city to visit a less active. While on the way to her work, we got a text from her saying she was going to be at the station soon, but we ended up not being able to meet. We then had to go back down to Yonezawa, and it was late, so we returned to the apartment.

Wednesday: We went to English Lunch at YIRA (Yonezawa International Relations Association), where we met Brother Gessell who works there. After the lunch we were talking with the people there, and they randomly started asking us about the word of wisdom; specifically what we could and couldn't drink. It was odd, but really cool. We then went to the a place where we could get a language study in. The closest place to our appointment after that was in a mall, so we sat down in the cafeteria. There were these high school boys who came after awhile, and Elder O. tried to get them to teach us some Japanese by talking to them in English. One of the boys freaked out and went and found someone who could speak english. We had to explain to the man that came that we were fine, and I felt bad for the boy. They didn't end up teaching us Japanese though. We then had a quick lesson with Mr. Kato. He is an alcoholic, and was drinking when we got there. We asked him if he had any desire to stop, but he said no. We aren't sure if we can continue to teach him much longer.
We then had a cool English class, and a new student came. His name is Ryosuke. He's a really nice guy. In the class, we had the students make puppets for the play they have in the chinese new year party we're having soon.

Thursday: A lot of things kept swapping on us this day, but it all worked out for the good. We ended up spending a lot of our day planning for the upcoming week that day, so we didn't get to do much else.

Friday: We ended up going to a member's friends work, and talked with them both there for a while. We then walked up to the north part of town to a different member's house, where we talked a lot about patience and what it is and isn't. We then went back to the station to try and meet the less active we couldn't the other day, but the train ended up being so late that we couldn't. We posted some of the stake pamphlets we have and then went back to the apartment.

Saturday: We had "companion exchanges" that day, but quite a few of our activities were in the same spot at around the same time. All four of us went to lunch at YIRA to celebrate the Chinese New Year with them, and we had some really good chinese food, and an awesome presentation from a chinese woman. It really instilled in me a desire to go to China, but I am glad as it is that I have been given the opportunity to be in Japan.
We (Elder P. and I) then went to a lesson with Mr. Hasebe at the church. We cleared some confusion he had about 1 Nephi Chapter 21, and invited him to church. He said he had no problems at the moment and probably would. (Spoiler alert: he came!)
Following that we went to an activity center with the other two and played basket ball with some boys that we met two weeks ago, and also got to play with Ryosuke, because we invited him to come.
We then hurried home, changed back into normal attire (normal for us), and went and had a lesson with one of the other two's investigators. Elder P. hadn't met him yet (Mr. Saimaru), so we got to know him a bit more, and heard his life story. It was really interesting, and the spirit was really strong as Elder P. shared his testimony and story about his mother's conversion story.

Sunday: Church was normal, except that Mr. Hasebe came. It was a really unusually spiritual meeting, and it was amazing. I even think I saw a tear in Mr. Hasebe's eye. 
Following that, we headed back to the apartment for some more studies and a quick role play with the other two missionaries before heading out into the world. While in the world we visited two families. The first was a part member less active family, and the second was a man we met through housing a while ago. We got some good conversations out of them, and we were even invited into Mr. Takahashi's (the man we met a while ago) house to see a baby. The baby ended up being a co-workers who was there, and it was a bit odd, but it was a cute baby, and we got to talk for a while. The place we went was a bit far away from our apartment, so we walked back to the apartment for the night.

I really hope you enjoy reading these, and I hope that the spirit is there when you do so. Thank you all for all your love and support.